Back from a quick trip to Florida with my family, I’m energized over how smooth our travel with a child has been these past 3 years, especially when it came to putting the little one to sleep. If it wasn’t for a friend of mine who advised me on some sleep training tips, I feel as though even getting our daughter to sleep would have been so stressful. If she didn’t get any sleep, neither would we. But it all worked out. Family travel seems to be rewarding me in ways that solo and married travel didn’t. I’m not going to stand here and try to convince you that family travel, and specifically travel with kids, is superior to traveling without children. If that were true you’d see people taking their nieces/nephews on trips. But what I am here to say is that there’s no real need to stop traveling just because you have kids.
I’ve shared some actionable advice on travel in the past–today’s more of an impassioned plea–for you who love to travel but think that you can’t do it to get out there and travel.
Today’s post is a response to 5 reasons I hear that people don’t travel with kids. These are the excuses we tell ourselves (or others!) for not traveling with kids.
#1 Travel with Kids is too Much Work.
Yes, travel with kids is work. Taking care of kids is work regardless of the travel. But I’ll agree–there’s some extra work involved with travel. Waking a little one up early, packing everything you need for a two week vacation, schlepping it all to the airport and back. That’s work. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ll break down how to eliminate some of this work with the following tips:
- Be rational about where/when you fly. Maybe you want to go to Cancun, but if the flights all leave at 6am. Consider alternate options rather than put yourself through a brutal morning/day. I’m hyper sensitive to the flight times I choose–to the point of sometimes letting those times decide the destination. Also consider how you’re going to get to your hotel when you land.
- Return flights are just as important, maybe even more so. When you’re returning be conscious of bedtime, and how you’ll integrate back into your home routine. This usually means return flights that don’t arrive too late at night.
- Consider not resetting your LOs internal clock. Bedtime is 8pm on the west coast, let it be 11pm on the east coast. It makes travel more “fun” for the LO and makes returning home easier to integrate back into your normal bedtime routine. That’s a little tougher when you travel +/-8 time zones, and harder to do when you travel west than east.
- Pack less. Being a parent usually means being prepared for anything. When you’re traveling that just isn’t possible. And as you’ll see from the rest of this post that’s actually a liberating thing. Packing less means less to carry, less to deal with, less…everything.
- Buy what you need when you arrive. This is especially true of consumables. I pack a selected assortment of snacks, some food for the flight, one or two UHT milk boxes, and [when we were using them] the diapers I know I’ll need to get through 3-4 days. The rest can be bought when I arrive. Yes, you might spend more on diapers somewhere else than you do at home. But that’s a small price to pay to not have a giant cube of bulky diapers with you. You could also consider shipping diapers to your AirBnB. Speaking of AirBnBs….
- Washer/Dryer access = less to take with you. Simple math here. If you can wash clothes at your destination you can easily cut your packing in half. The idea that you need more than 3-4 days worth of clothes is a path to excess. Every pound you pack is a pound you have to carry!
The basics of this section are that you can trade a small amount of money for the luxury of not waking up at 4am and not having to carry things with you everywhere you go.
#2 Travel with Kids is Boring
I can’t argue too much with this criticism. I think the real determining factor here is what your travel was like before kids. If you were up until 3am, chasing thrills and extreme experiences…yes travel with kids is going to be boring in comparison.
In my person experience travel with kids is… very similar to travel without kids. Maybe that means I’m boring? We enjoy hiking, and have done some very nice hikes with a stroller. There’s a whole lot of adventure in a day of sightseeing with a LO in tow. A boat ride to a tough uphill walk through a town to a gondola up a mountain, to a cogwheel train which takes you further up a mountain sounds like a lot. And it is, but an afternoon spent in the snow is great fun for a little one–and something I would have done with just my wife (for the views, not for the snow play necessarily).
I’ll say our restaurant choices are a little different now, and we haven’t been able to enjoy some of the beach activities we usually would. But that’s been replaced with some fun moments which wouldn’t be possible without kids. I have very fond memories of playing in the snow with my daughter. I also think I wouldn’t have found the beaches I loved in Kauai without an eye on baby friendly beaches.
Another nice thing about travel with kids is that it makes conversation with strangers easier, at least for an introvert like myself. Everyone on earth either was a kid, or has a kid. So kids are universally relateable. Some of my best travel memories are of locals who really took to my daughter and went the extra mile to make us feel welcome.
So is travel with kids boring? Not unless you spend a week in Florida in September. ?
#3 Travel with Kids is Tiring
Should travel be relaxing, full of days spend lounging by the pool? Maybe, but that was never my style to begin with. Even if it is you can usually still make that happen, again with the right choice of destinations. Baby friendly pools with lifeguards, kids clubs, babysitters. There are options for spending the day doing nothing even when you have kids.
We’ve become big fans of babysitters when we travel. I know there’s some angst with leaving your kids with someone you don’t know, but sometimes activities aren’t kid friendly. And a relaxing spa session is a great way to recharge.
I’ve had good results with Yelp for finding babysitters. If you’re super worried bring cameras and instruct the babysitter what areas are on/off limits. This usually works best with an AirBnB type setting, where the babysitter can make snacks, play games, activities, etc with your LO.
#4 Travel With Kids Ruins Routines
I’ve heard people say they have a good routine going and they don’ want to spoil it with travel that upends things like bedtime, naps, etc. I’ll counter that by saying that far and away the benefits of travel with kids outweigh the negatives.
Instead of seeing travel as ruining routines look to it as a way to break bad habits. Unable to stop using a pacifier? Forget it at home and take a trip somewhere without it. By the time you get back that habit will be broken for both of you.
Smaller steps, like eliminating the use of a sippy cup in favor of a straw–or graduating from a straw to a normal cup are a lot easier to do under the guise of “we don’t have any way to wash your sippy cup so you’ll need to drink out of a big girl cup with a straw.”
Some of my daughter’s biggest accomplishments developmentally have revolved around our travel. The reason is that Travel does ruin routines, and sometimes that’s a good thing. Many routines you’re ‘stuck’ in can be bad ones. I’m just as guilty of doing the easy because the hard work is…hard.
Parenting tip: Training your kids is 80% training yourself and only 20% training your kids. (Removing pacifiers/potty training/sleep training/flying on planes/etc.)
– Milenomics (@Milenomics) August 16, 2018
I made a joke on twitter a few weeks ago that training a kid is 80% training yourself and 20% training your kid. I stand by this assertion, as I’m sure those advances would have happened at home, but travel was the push *I* needed to enact them sooner.
#5 Travel with Kids isn’t ‘Real’ Travel
I’ve long argued here on this blog that perception = reality–and if your perception is that travel with kids isn’t real travel I hope this post can move that perception slightly.
I’ll argue that if you can’t travel with kids and find something (anything!) enjoyable, maybe you were never that into the idea of travel to begin with? Maybe you were instead enamored with a special place, event, or time instead? Maybe travel meant a certain specific thing, something that is incompatible with kids (wine tastings jump out to at me here). I’m not saying those aren’t valid travel aspirations. Just that they’re not the *only* such travel aspirations worth aspiring to.
Give up your preconceived notions of travel, and of travel with kids. Get out there and do it. Because If you never try, you’ll never know…